Etymologically, the term Literature comes from a Latin word “Litteraturae” which means writings. In general form Literature is applied to all fields including Philosophical writings, historical writings as well as other writings. But in Literature, it is used to designate fictional and imaginative writings such as Poetry, Fiction and Drama.

Therefore, Literature is a work of art expressed in words using a Language creatively to express human realities.


It is the term which implies creative Language and imitated social realities which can be transmitted in the form of writing or speech and reflects human experiences. It is distinct from other works of art such as painting, sculpture, drawing and so on. However, both works of art express the culture of a specific society from which they owe their essence.


  • Language is very important in literature as the words are used creatively as raw materials in structuring literary works
  • Language is necessarily used as a medium of communication for the intended goals or messages
  • Language distinguishes literature from other works of art as well as ordinary works



  • Originally, there are two types of Literature, namely;
  1. Oral Literature
  2. Written Literature


This is a Literature presented through oral expressions. It was mostly used before the invention of writings.


  1. The Folk Tale: This is a short narrative
    handed down through oral tradition, passed down from one generation to the next (human as characters).
  2. The Legend: It is a story handed down from the past, especially one that may not be true but it has historical derivational/historical background.
  3. Myths: These are stories that originated in ancient times especially one dealing with ideas or beliefs about the origin of race, things or events.
  4. Fable: Are short stories (tales) often with animals as characters which convey a moral message.
  5. Anecdote: Most refers to the narrated incident in the life of an important person and should lay claim to an element of truth.
  6. Epics: These are long narrative poems in an elevated style/presenting characters of high position in adventures through their relation to a central heroic figure and their development of episodes.
  7. Ballads: Is a form of verse to be sung or recited and characterized by its presentation of dramatic in simple narrative form.
  8. Riddles: Are puzzling questions, statements or description especially ones intended to test the cleverness of those wishing to solve them.

    E.g.: It walks in four legs in the morning, two legs in the noon and three legs in the evening-Human being.

  9. Proverbs: Short well-known sayings that state a general truth or give advice.


    Are compact fixed statements which imply question and answer.

  10. Idioms: A phrase/statement whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its individual words and which must be learnt as a unit.




A novel is an extended fiction prose, narrative of a considerable length in which characters and actions as representatives of real life, are portrayed in a plot of more less complexity.



  1. It is featured by fictive narrations
  2. It uses characters who are doers of actions or who the story evolves around them
  3. It is written in a considerable length than other genre of literature
  4. It is written in a narrative form


It is a prose narrative which is briefer than a short novel, covering a length of twenty or thirty pages, restricted in number of characters and normally deals with one major event/topic.


  • Is a composition that evokes emotions and imagination by the use of vivid, intense Language usually arranged in a pattern of words or lines with a regular repeated accent or stress.
  • Is a composition that is characterized by special use of Language and rhythm, rhymes, imagery, metaphor, symbol, onomatopoeia, meter and various repetitions.
  • Is the writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experiences, chosen and arranged in a particular pattern to create specific emotional response through its meaning, sound and rhythm.
  • It is a literary genre that uses Language in a special way by employing a lot of figurative expressions.
  • It is a literary genre that in line and metrical form which is sharper in figurative Language use and very economical in the amount of words used compared to other genres.
  • It is a way of expressing feelings, emotions, ideas and other things that we experience, using Language characterized by imagery and rhythmical sounds.


  1. Poetry is imaginative
  2. It is rhythmical or metrical in form
  3. It is reflective/reflects experiences
  4. It is rich in figures of speech or figurative Language
  5. It arouses emotions
  6. It implies the use of lines/verses in stanza
  7. It uses repetitive sounds, especially similar sounds like anadiplosis and parallelism
  8. Implies poetic license i.e. allows grammatical errors
  9. It uses concentrated/condensed Language or it is very economical in the amount of words


  1. Poetry uses condensed/concentrated Language than the two other genres of Literature
  2. Poetry is written in verses/lines that form stanzas while other genres, for instance novel, words are in paragraphs
  3. Poetry employs poetic license largely than the other genres
  4. Poetry is more rhythmical as almost verses or words are pronounced in stressed and unstressed syllables in a regular interval of beats with regular pauses
  5. Poetry is rich in figures Language than novel and play
  6. Poetry uses Language that arouses emotion than other genres as it implies the use of more elevated Language. Because it uses/involves the five senses of a man (hearing, smelling, sighting, tasting as well as feeling)
  7. Poetry uses repetitive sounds especially of musical quality like rhyme, refrain etc.
  8. Poetry is more reflective literary work than other literary genres
  9. Poetry as poems in composition can be sung or recited, never to other genres
  10. Poetry uses the persona as the one who presents/speaks in the poem(s) but the prose works use characters with their names


Poem; It is a piece of writing/composition in verses form, especially in stanza(s). it is the best words in best order.

Poet(ess); a person who composes poems.

Persona; this is a person who speaks or narrates in the poem.

Poetic license; It is the freedom of the poet to break deliberately the grammar of a particular in use.

Verse; it is a single line in a stanza

Stanza; this refers to a group of verses that form a single unit.

Rhyme; it refers to the repetition of similar sounds especially at the end of verse(s)

Rhythm; it is the pattern of stressed and unstressed words in musical beats especially in regular intervals.

Refrain; it refers to the repetition of the similar words/lines at end of each stanza

Alliteration; is a repetition of consonant sounds within the same verse at initial of words.

Consonance; this is the repetition of similar consonant sounds at the end of verses.

Assonance; it is a repetition of similar vowel sounds in the same verse.

Reiteration; it is the repetition of the same word(s) in the poem.

Parallelism; is the repetition of a line which have a similar structure with some similar phrases/the use of similar or identical language, structures, events or ideas in different parts of a text.

Tone; this is the quality of sound a persona

Mood; this is the state of being/
the atmosphere or emotional condition created by the piece, within
the setting. It may be sympathy, anger, regretful, sadness etc.

Attitude; the way someone perceives something



  • There are two types of poetry as the broader category according to perspectives/views, these are;
  1. Traditional poetry
  2. Modern poetry


This refers to poems written by using rules or principles like equal number of verses in each stanza and follows rhyming pattern.

It is known as closed form of writing poems as it is governed by strict rules or principles.


It is free verse, open form of writing poems in which the traditional strict rules and principles are not followed, instead are ignored.

But we have types of poetry according to form (structure) and content. Under this category, we have three major types of poetry, namely;

  1. Narrative poetry
  2. Lyric or lyrical poetry
  3. Dramatic poetry



These are kinds of poems which tell a story that are presented in the form of narrating a story. We have many poems (classifications) which belong to this category like Descriptive, didactic, epic, ballad etc.


These are specific categories of narrative poetry and are presented by describing/giving features/characteristics of something/things.


Are those poems which give instructions and are composed for educative purposes/issues. For example, “Front line” by George Shea


These are gland heroic poems that try to narrate about phenomena or events of heroes/heroic figures in a given society. Or it is a form of poem that recounts/tells accomplishment of a heroic figure. It includes expansive setting, superhuman feats, gods and supernatural being.


Is a poem where by it involves more than oneself/personal in conversation or speaking in turn.

These are some of narrative poetry as there are others like reflective, expressive etc.


Are poems which express strong feelings/emotions of the speaker or persona. There are three classifications of lyrical poems, which are ode, elegy and sonnet.


Is a poem that expresses serious issues/addresses a person or celebration of events.


Is a poem that expresses sorrowful or sad strong feelings especially on death of a close person. Or is a type of poem in which a poet mourns the death of a specific person. For example,”The Funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.” by Nikki Glovanni.


Is a poem that expresses feelings using fourteen verses/ is a fourteen line poem normally with a distinctive rhyme skills and a metrical pattern. “If we must die” “Merry-go-round” and “The strange wind” are good examples of sonnet poems.


Is a kind of poetry that involves dramatic narrative form and using more than one-self/persona. There are two specifications of dramatic poetry;


Refer to poems that are under this category that involve one speaker who is in charge of more than him/herself. E.g. “Song of Lawino”


Refer to poems which are involving more than one speaker or persona.


Is a piece of writing performed by actors in a theater, television or radio. It ought to be a just and likely image of human nature, reproducing the passions and humours and the change of fortune to which it is subjected for the delight and instructions of mankind.

It refers to the imitation of complete actions adapted to the sympathetic attention of man, developed in a succession of continuously related incidents acted and expressed by means of speech and the symbol actualities and conditions of life. If a drama does not use/employ words instead it only uses gestures, it is now called a pantomime


  1. Setting; this refers to the place where the literary work is set and time referring to the story. Normally, the setting is real or imaginative in nature. The setting can be specific (e.g., New York City in 1930) or ambiguous (e.g., a large urban city during economic hard times). Also refers directly to a description thereof.
  2. Characterization/dramatic personage: is a process of choosing characters/actors/actress and shape them to represent and portray the intended message.
    On the other hand, this is the author’s means of conveying to the reader a character’s personality, life history, values, physical attributes, etc. Also refers directly to a description thereof.
  3. Plot: this is the arrangement (organization) or series of events/incidents in a narrative or play/drama. It is a superstructure of literary work specifically a novel or drama/play.

    Plot is the interplay and sequence of events in a story artistically arranged so that the author may attain a specific aesthetic or artistic impact. It can be arranged chronologically or achronologically depending on the author’s interest.

  4. Audience: these are the people who receive the desired message through listening, reading, observing or watching a drama/play.
  5. Diction: this is the choice and use of words in a literary work.
  6. Style/technique: refers to the way on how a literary work is structured/presented by the author/playwright.
  7. Theme:
    The main idea or message conveyed by the piece of writing. A theme is generally stated as a complete sentence; an idea expressed as a single word or fragmentary phrase is called a motif.
  8. Motif: A recurring important idea or image. A motif differs from a theme in that it can be expressed as a single word or fragmentary phrase, while a theme usually must be expressed as a complete sentence.



  1. Drama uses physical setting but play is shaped by words
  2. Drama uses actual actions as acted while play uses words to shape actions
  3. Drama has many audience than play as it involves illiterate and literate people in the society
  4. Drama started before play
  5. The story is easier grasped in drama than in play
  6. Drama is in spoken while play is always in written language
  7. Drama uses real characters while play uses imaginary characters shaped by words.


There are about four types of drama/play but the two types are the major ones of the four


It is a type of drama that involves seriousness of actions/issues and leads the hero of the drama to endanger his life or ending to death or isolation. E.g. “An enemy of the people” and “Death of a salesman”


It is a kind of drama which uses humorous/funny actions that can make people laugh. It is normally characterized by mistaken identity as well as happy ending.


It is the combination of both seriousness and humour but never the hero to die even when he is faced with dangerous situations.


This involves excitement of actions very exaggerated and musical sounds, elements in the play for entertainment.


  1. FORM


Consists of the following,

  1. Setting
  2. Style
  3. Plot
  4. Diction
  5. Linguistic techniques
  6. Characterization



In a normal sense, style is a method of doing or performing something especially in the arts or science. In a literary work, technique/style refers to the way the work has been structured. There are many styles being used in presenting literary works, some of them are as discussed below;

Flashback/analepsis: is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached. Not only that but also flashback can be defined as an achronological movement back in time, so that a chronologically earlier incident is related later in the text.

Generally, flashback is referred to as the insertion of an earlier event into the chronological structure of a novel, motion picture, play and films.

Oral traditional style/straight forward: this is the style in which a story is told from the beginning, middle and to its end. It is a commonly and older used literary technique unlike others.

Overshadowing/prolepsis: it is a literary technique which involves showing a little insight of what the work of art is comprised and then giving detailed information as the work is developed


This refers to an arrangement (organization) of events in a narrative or play. It is clearly reflected through conflicts, physical, moral or personal conflict. A story is what happens, a plot is the actions.

Plot is an interplay and sequence of events in a story artfully arranged so that the author may attain the desired aesthetic or artistic effect. It is built through the following;

Exposition: is the point that involves defining the setting and characterization.

Imposing problem/conflict: the point where the writer starts to develop the story using conflicting ideas of two characters/sides.

Rising action: this involves developing actions/events from the problem/conflicting ideas to other new developed problems.

Climax: the highest point of interest that the story centers.
Or it is the turning point in a story, at which the end result becomes inevitable, usually where something suddenly goes terribly wrong; the “dramatic high point” of a story.

Falling actions: the point where the interest of the reader starts to go/drop down.

Resolution/denouncement: the point in which solutions of the problem are found and suggestions are given out.


This is the artistic technique which refers to the creation of imaginary persons so that they exist for the reader as life-like.

How do we determine characters?

Behavior, trait or features

  1. His/her words, what he/she speaks/says
  2. His/her actions/deeds, what he/she does
  3. His/her name
  4. What is said by other characters to another
  5. His/her own monologue
  6. What he/she thinks in armchair
  7. Physical movement
  8. Psychological set up/background which is the mental pictures of that character
  9. Moral aspects



  1. Protagonist character; these are characters that carry the burden/side of the majority as they are used on behalf of the society interests.
  2. Antagonist characters; are those characters that tend to go against the protagonist characters and they are selfish, defending their personal interests.
  3. Main characters; these are characters that are seen throughout the work whether pro or antagonist and are used to send/convey the intended message to the society through their conflicting ideas.
  4. Minor characters; are helping characters who help the main characters to carry a message.
  5. Round characters; are those characters that change their personality in the work of art. They develop from one stage to another. In another way they are known as developing characters.
  6. Flat characters; are those characters that do not change as throughout the entire work of art as they are static in nature. However, they can sometimes be called static characters.
  7. Stock characters; are borrowed characters from another field like from oral tradition.



    1. To educate people; by inculcating them with sense of awareness and self-activation. It develops the mind of people by giving them knowledge on the existing social realities, as it makes the person to reason.
    2. To entertain the people by the use of aesthetic pleasure that stimulates the sense of enjoyment. It is through reading, listening and watching literary works like novels, plays and films/movies.
    3. To develop language as it uses language as the medium of presentation, then people develop language/communicative skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. It improves the stock of vocabulary and grammar.
    4. To liberate people physically and mentally as it directs people towards their problems, they may decide to liberate themselves through struggles as it awakens and inform of the social realities.
    5. To criticize the society/people as it points out the weakness, follies, vices and evils of the society as well as giving out good things as the views of what the society should do away from the existing circumstances.
    6. To express people’s culture which includes values, norms, customs, beliefs, language etc. it makes/promotes good or useful aspects of culture. Also it makes people abandon bad practices, norms and beliefs.
    7. To influence people towards changes. People may be influenced to act or do things in some ways after reading or watching literary works. It instills revolutionary ideas.

NB: Changes can be positive or negative.




The language of literature always is not direct. It is a connotative language which implies indirect meaning/literary meaning rather than direct/literal or denotative meaning. And it is that language which is referred to as figurative language/literary meaning.

Hence, in order for the interpretation to obtain meaning in any literary work, it has to be done through;

  • Association
  • Context
  • Impact

Figurative language includes the following;

  • Imagery
  • Figures of speech
  • Proverbs
  • Riddles
  • Sayings
  • Idioms
  • etc.


It is the figurative language that when it is used, it paints a mental picture in the mind of the reader/listener. Or

Imagery refers to the use of language to represent descriptive things, actions or even abstract ideas. On the other hand, imagery is Language which describes something in detail, using words to substitute for and create sensory stimulation, including visual imagery and sound imagery. Also refers to specific and recurring types of images, such as food imagery and nature imagery.

It involves mental picture language, for example;

“Her body has unusual black, like soot

With terrifying rashes,

And chronic sores.

She is getting thinner, thinner and thinner

Than a mosquito body”

When a person reads the above verses, he/she may paint a picture/image of a person who is thinner or becoming thinner than a mosquito body as well as her body is terribly destroyed by rashes and black scars like soot.



Is the use of language that one thing refers in terms of another which it symbolically resembles.

There are many figures of speech in literature, below are some of them;

Metaphor: is the figure of speech which implies direct comparison of two unlike things without using conjunctions. For example;

  • He is a lion
  • She is a green snake in the green grass

Simile: is a comparison of two unlike things using conjuctions. It is an indirect relationship where one thing or idea is expressed as being similar to another. Similes usually contain the words “like” or “as,” but not always.

For example;

  • He looks like a dog
  • She is as slow as a snail

Symbolism: is the use of specific symbols, ideas, objects or events to represent/suggest or stand for something else. For example;

  • Blood-sacrifice, relationship
  • Rain/water-life/hope

Personification: this is a figure of speech that gives or endows objects, animals, ideas or things the ability to do thing like human beings. Or

Is the giving of attributes to inanimate that they do not deserve (inanimate means non-animals e.g. stones, trees etc.). For example;

  • Hyena said, let me eat
  • The mountain rose majestically
  • All the birds sang sorrowfully

Hyperbole/overstatement: is a figure of speech that involves exaggeration of things, ideas or events. For example;

  • Mr. John invited billions of people to his party
  • Ayoub always eats ten dishes of food

Euphemism: is a figure of speech that is used to reduce harshness of words that could be spoken in the public. For example;

  • Passed away instead of died
  • Family way instead of pregnant
  • Vagina/female reproductive organ instead of cunt

Metonymy: is a figure of speech characterized by the substitution of one item closely related to another. For example;

  • Crown-king/queen
  • State house- president
  • Chair-leadership

Irony: is the figure of speech that tells/speaks opposite of what is meant to be. It is where an event that occurs is unexpected, and which is in absurd or mocking opposition to what is expected or appropriate. For example;

  • A man of the people-enemy
  • An enemy of the people-friend

Satire: it is a figure of speech/literary term that use humour or wit to ridicule human vices, follies or weakness. It is used for the purpose of improving human institutions or humanity.

Sarcasm: this is a figure of speech that uses language and inflicting, wounding as well as tormenting a person. For example;

  • Despite your richness but you have no even a single child!
  • Do you think you are so special? If so, you are deducing yourself!
  • No one can marry such kind of a person like you!

Onomatopoeia: refers to the formation of words referring to the sounds produced by the originator of the words. For example;

  • The hissing of a snake
  • The bang of the door

Depersonification: this is a figure of speech which gives a human being the inanimate (non-human) characteristics or behavior. For example;

  • He barked like a rabid dog
  • She has as a long neck as a giraffe

Apostrophe: an explanation in which a person is addressing an absence or dead human being or a non-human creature, as if they can hear or reply. For example;

  • They visit us in dream
  • The dead never comes back

Paradox: this is a contradictory statement which has some truth when interpreted, where a situation is created which cannot possibly exist, because different elements of it cancel each other out.

  • You will kill him with your kindness
  • Let us develop a dangerous habit of unselfishness

Allusion: the comparison of an ordinary person or event with a past famous or notorious person or event. For example;

  • The use of a passion week
  • The use of biblical/Quranic terms

Synecdoche: the substitution of a meaning where a part of an entity is mentioned to mean the whole entity or the whole entity is mentioned to mean its part. For example;

  • I employ many hands because I have many mouths to feed
  • Tanzania won a gold medal in the Marathon

Oxymoron: a statement in which elements of opposite meanings are used. For example;

  • Let us agree not to disagree
  • feather of lead
  • sick health
  • cold fire

Allegory: a story that has two meanings, one open and direct meaning, and another indirect, hidden but intended meaning, where every aspect of a story is representative, usually symbolic, of something else, usually a larger abstract concept or important historical/geopolitical event.

Understatement/litotes: this is a figure of speech which describes or represents something being smaller or less significant than it really is. Consider the examples below;

  • She is becoming thinner and thinner than a mosquito body.
  • He is shorter that he is able to sit on a paracetamol tablet.


This is the fundamental attitude which the poet takes towards his subject or audience and to his entire understanding so as to communicate his feeling. Tone can be expressed in the following ways;

  1. Ironical tone
  2. Satirical tone
  3. Sarcastic tone
  4. Humorous tone
  5. Wit tone
  6. Happiness, anger, seriousness, sorrowful, sadness, regretful etc.



Is a poetic unit made up of a number of lines. Stanzas also are categorized according to a number of lines/verses it contains. They include;

  • Couplet-2lines
  • Triplet-3lines
  • Quatrain-4lines
  • Quintent-5lines
  • Sestet-6lines
  • Septet-7lines
  • Octave-8lines
  • etc.



There are several things that you are required to consider when you are analyzing a poem. The following are important things to consider;

TOOLS; poem

A dictionary

The detailed checklist for analyzing poetry


This is the list of procedures and technicalities to be employed/considered in poetry analysis. They include the following;

  1. The title of a poem; the title sometimes may help you to get a clue on what the poem is about. It is also more helpful to the reader for predicting the content of a given poem. However, it is not necessarily that every title is capable of suggesting the content of the poem as titles are ironical in nature.
  2. Form/structure; this refers to how the poem is construed specifically in considering the verses and/or stanzas it contains. It may have fourteen or less and more verses, perhaps.
  3. General message/content; this is referred to as the core message a poem contains.
  4. Other possible themes; these are supplementary issues discussed in a poem. They are sometimes known as motifs.
  5. The speaker/persona; this is the one who speaks in a poem. He/she may be passive persona who only narrates about a problem/situation without him/herself being affected by it. Also, he/she can be an active persona who is directly affected by the topic of discussion.


  6. Language use/diction; this is referred to the way on how a language is used to mould a poem. This is so crucial in Literature, Language use is very influential in moulding the message the artist wants to convey. It includes the level of formality (i.e. formal or informal/standard or non-standard), figures of speech as well as imagery.


  7. Musical devices; here a reader is ought to pay much attention on issues like rhyme, rhythm, refrain, assonance, consonance, alliteration, reiteration, anadiplosis, parallelism etc.


  8. Tone/mood/attitude of the persona; understanding of tone/mood/attitude can help a reader to determine the message, a poet intended to convey to his/her audience.


  9. Relevance of the poem; a reader is supposed to relate the motifs with his/her contemporary society. The poem may only be relevant if it reflects the social reality in the reader’s society.



EAT MORE by Joe Corrie

Eat more fruit, the slogan say

More fish, more beef, more bread

But I’m on unemployment pay

My third year now and wed.


And also I wonder when I see

The slogan when I pass

The only one that would suit me

Eat more bloody grass.



  1. Who speaks in the poem?
  • The one who speaks in this poem is the active persona who is directly affected by unemployment and he is complaining about eating balanced diet while he cannot afford it due to his poor financial position.
  1. What is the tone/mood/attitude of the speaker?
  • The persona’s tone/mood/attitude is sadness/angry (anger) and seriousness because he is complaining on the situation of unemployment that makes him to fail to afford eating balanced diet.
  1. How the poem is organized (structured)?
  • The poem is organized into two stanzas with four verses in each stanza.
  1. Comment on the Language use
  • The Language used in a poem is ordinary or standard Language because it uses the common words. Also it follows the grammatical rules like punctuation.

    However, there is the use of figurative language which include the following;

    • Imagery; this can be depicted by the description of the slogan as well the diet contents specifically in the first stanza.
    • Figures of speech; there is a lot of figures of speech depicted in this poem, and they include;
      • Symbolism e.g. “bloody grass” to symbolize the lower class (poor) and “fish, beef and bread” to symbolize the upper class in the society (rich) as well as the balanced diet.

      • Personification; this is vividly at the first verse of the first stanza as the poet says;

        “Eat more fruit, the slogan says

        More fish, more beef, more bread”

  1. What is the content/general idea/topic of the poem?
  • The general idea/content of the poem is unemployment which results to poverty, exploitation, protest, conflict etc.
  1. What are the poetic features used in this poem?
  • Different poetic features used in this poem, they include the following;
    • Rhyme; the rhymes used are; “abab” rhyming scheme in the in the first stanza and “cdcd” rhymes in the second stanza/last stanza.
    • Repetition of similar sounds e.g.
      • Alliteration “m” and “b” in the second verse of the first stanza

        More fish, more beef, more bread

      • Reiteration; eat, more, slogan.
      • Consonance; e.g. “d” in the second and fourth stanza of the first stanza;

        “Eat more fruit, the slogan say

More fish, more beef, more bread

But I’m on unemployment pay

My third year now and wed.”

  • Assonance; this is seen in the second verse of the first stanza as shown below;

    “Eat more fruit, the slogan say

More fish, more beef, more bread

————————————– ”


  1. What is the type of this poem?
  • It is a lyric poem which is short and expresses strong feelings/ideas of a persona.
  1. Is the poem relevant to your contemporary society?
  • The poem is so relevant to our contemporary society as in most cases people in power insist the implementation of different slogans without even considering their affordability to the common people.


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